UX Librarian: Selling Books Online

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Selling Books Online

You never realize how much stuff you own until you move. When I first moved to West Virginia in 1999 I noticed that I had LOT of books and CDs. In order to create some more room in my house and to get some extra cash, I started reselling books online.

Pretty soon, my hobby became somewhat profitable but it took lots of time and error to get it right. Most books have no resale value and the trick is to look for the books that do retain value even with age. In general when I look for books to resell I look for nonfiction and I look for books with some age. Books from academic publishers can also be a safe bet because of their small press runs. Books about trains, planes, fishing and automobiles also may have resale value.

I started going through books at Pioneer Memorial Public Library in the past few weeks and set up an account on Amazon.com. When I list the book for sale I have to find a record that is very similar or that has the same book cover. I am careful to examine the book and make sure it is not written in or damaged. Many books have the name of the previous owner on the inside and that is OK. Books that have underlining or highlighting in them automatically lose resale value.

When I sell a book on Amazon, I am careful to ship it as quickly as possible via Library Rate using the United States Postal Service. (If you are a private seller not affiliated with a library, send your books or CDs via Media Mail. It is the cheapest way to ship.) I also like to ship my books out in a protected bubble mailer so the book is not damaged in transit. I include a copy of the order slip with the book as a receipt for the customer. I also like to write a quick Thank You on the order slip.

OK, so what books generally have no resale value? Best sellers like Danielle Steele, James Patterson, or Stephen King have no resale value unless they are signed first editions. There are millions of these books printed making their resale value nil. Most textbooks have no resale value unless they are within the current year or two. College textbooks are notorious for publishing new editions every year so they can keep their content current and the need for the new (& pricey) book continues to keep them selling books. The reality is that most books that are bought new lose much of their value as soon as they are purchased and leave the store.

So how do I select books to resell at the library? I go through donations from patrons to see if our library owns the book. If we already own it, then I scan Amazon to see if the book has resale value. If it does, I will list it quickly. Today I ran into a bit of a quandry when I found a book that had resale value. The book is "Heading Out to Wonderful" by Robert Goolrick and was published in 2012. I could sell it online and make about $10 or I could add it to our collection. Considering that the book is new, has great reviews, and takes place in Virginia, I will add it to our collection. Though the book bottom feeder in me winces at not making $10, this book is more valuable to our collection and to our patrons.

Amazon is not the only place to resell books, DVDs, and CDs online. I have also sold via Half.com. While you will retain more profit from items sold on Half.com, you sell more items on Amazon because it is the biggest place where people shop online.

If you would like to check out what kinds of books Pioneer Memorial Public Library has for sale on Amazon you can check out our storefront here.

So within the first month of setting up an Amazon shop for Pioneer Memorial Library we have sold about 11 books and made a couple of hundred dollars. It's not a lot of money, but when you have a small, nonprofit library every penny counts.

The bottom line is that selling books is kind of like a treasure hunt. You have to go through a lot of books sometimes to find one or two that have resale value but if you have patience and keep at it, you might just find that you too enjoy being a book reseller.